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Memorable Characters with Tiny Parts


Objects arranged to represent a cartoon character

Among the characters I’ve written, some of my favorite do little more than walk across the page. I want to tell you about three of them.


The first one is Brother Pedersen. In Prelude to Revolution, I sent him to tell three boys to be patient on Independence Day.



“You boys tired of vaiting for da parade?” A gray-haired man, no taller than Frank, slowed to a stop on the sidewalk and leaned on his stick.


“Hi, Brother Pedersen.” Stretch scrambled to his feet and towered over the old man by more than a foot. “It sure seems like it will never start.”


“Never.” Ed’s head came to the top of Stretch’s shoulder.


Frank stayed by the wall and stared at the ground. He wanted to be part of the conversation, but his heart was pumping too fast.


Brother Pedersen raised three gnarled fingers. “I have lived in dree countries. It is alvays da same. Da flags, dey are alvays at da start, and dey alvays come. Don’t you vorry.” He moved past them. “You boys have a goot time vatching da parade.”


That’s the extent of Brother Pedersen’s part. He doesn’t even say goodbye.


The other two characters I want to introduce are Richard and Matilda Burrows. I love their banter.


“Howdy, old timer,” the wagon driver hollered while pulling back on the reins. “I thought sure that was you.”

I couldn’t place the man’s weathered face or the woman beside him, but Lot jumped to his feet.

“Well, I’ll be. If it isn’t Richard Burrows. How long has it been?”

“A good ten years or more, if it’s been one.” The driver swung off the seat and shook Lot’s hand with enthusiastic fervor. “Think the last time I saw you was before I moved to Bear River.” He rubbed his scraggly beard. “That was in ’71, er ’72.” “No, ‘70.” The woman shook her head and went back to talking to whomever was in the rear of their wagon.

The newcomer snickered and shrugged one shoulder. “Thank you, Matilda,” he said slowly without turning, his voice raised a mite. “Good thing I have you to help me keep track of such things.”

“Don’t you know it,” she said climbing from the wagon.


So if I like these three so much, why don’t I write bigger parts for them? I’ve tried, and I’ll keep trying, but they need a better reason for walking on stage than because I'd like them to wave and say, “Hello.”

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